La Palma set to have a “convesation” with residents April 4

City of La Palma
Courtesy photo

Following a divisive discussion on the potential of removing term limits, the City of La Palma has scheduled a “Community Conversation” for April 4 to “have a dialog” with residents, the city confirmed this week.

During a special meeting in February, Mayor Marshall Goodman and Council member Nitesh Patel questioned whether there were enough quality candidates to keep the city running smoothly after they were termed out of office.

Accordingly, they want to have a “conversation with residents” to discuss the issue. It will begin at 5:30 p.m. on April 4 and it will be held at the La Palma Community Center.
“For me, it’s a pretty long-standing issue,” said Goodman. “We have to do something about city leadership,” he said. The mayor, who is termed out this year, said he was not proposing a dialog with constituents to benefit himself.

“I see things up here on the dais,” said Goodman, who said he feels compelled to bring them forward.

“I would love to know why citizens in 1996 decided to impose term limits,” said Goodman.

“It really doesn’t make sense to limit it to two terms,” the mayor said. Three or four terms would make more sense for what he termed a “micro” city such as La Palma.
Council member Nitesh Patel has tried once before to engage the Council and residents on the term limits issue.

Patel, who in 2019 briefly put together an effort to study term limits, said he listened to what citizens wanted then, but perhaps things have changed since the pandemic in 2020.
Patel suggested, without citing evidence, that the overall candidate pool could shrink because the city has now switched to single-member districts.

“I think times and circumstances have changed since 2019,” said Patel. When the city elected officials on an at-large basis,” he said, the “pool” of candidates was seemingly larger. Now that the city has elected to transition to by-district elections, “it’s going to be hard to be able to find people in certain districts.”

Robert Carruth, a local activist firmly against removing the term limits, has said he has no idea why this city council would think residents who voted overwhelmingly to limit the Council members terms would have changed their position.

“I looked at five different national polls and 87 percent of citizens support term limits,” said

Carruth, “As has already been stated, 80 percent of La Palma voted in 1996 for the current term limits we have,” he added. Our residents are not asking to discuss term limits, said Carruth during the special meeting.

In 2022, when Council members in Cerritos attempted to remove their two term limit, voters reaffirmed it with 80 percent in favor of keeping the limits, he said. In addition, “their little selfish ploy backfired” as voters came back and made it a two-term lifetime limit, he told the Council.

He said when the effort in 2019 threatened the two-term limit, residents responded quickly to oppose the effort.

“Fortunately, residents responded with a grassroots campaign to protect our term limits and turned out to oppose the effort,” he said. “Now here you are, beating that same old tired drum you did four years ago.”

“The originators of these study sessions are the council members who stand to benefit from expanding term limits. If you discuss anything, it should be to strengthen term limits,” he added.

Although nearly 80 percent of La Palma residents voted to initiate term limits, they did not impose “lifetime” limits, meaning, that after sitting out for a term, any former member can run again.

Mark Waldman, a current council member, did exactly that.

“It needs to be mentioned that the city has been well run under the existing two-term limit,” Waldman informed Goodman and Patel at the special meeting.

“I’d have to be pretty well convinced that the residents have changed their mind before I go against what eighty percent of residents approved in 1996,” he said.
Nevertheless, Patel said he thought it was “prudent” that the city has this discussion with residents.

Fiscally, however, the city as yet has decided not to spend the $50,000 appropriated by the Council to hire a consultant, instead will handle the organization of the conversation itself, Assistant City Manager Joseph Cisneros has confirmed.